Blogging in the Deaf Education Classroom
Inside this issue:
In the United States alone, there are
The latest research points to
nearly 113 million blogs (Helmond,
Letter from Sharon
2008). Approximately 12 million Ameri- numerous benefits of blogging
can adults publish blogs and 57 million
What’s on my bookshelf 3 including student engagement,
Americans read them (Lenhart & Fox,
2006). A blog is a website where en- authentic voice, and interaction and
Blogging in the Deaf 4-5
tries are typically displayed in reverse
awareness of diverse perspectives
chronological order. The purpose of
Books I’m looking for- 6 Ellison & Wu, 2008; Ferdig & Trammell, 2004;
blogs ranges from personal interest to
ward to reading
Wickerson & Chambers, 2006
Thanks for Giving me a 6
When I started my Deaf Characters
blog in 2007, I did not plan to become a
allowed the students immediate access
Awards & Honors “blogger” nor did I have any plans for
to their work and that of their peers.
my blog. I simply opened an account
The latest research points to numerous
How to Start Blogging 7 and added a list of books connected
benefits of blogging which includes
with my research. It took me three
student engagement, authentic voice,
months to begin posting on a regular
Author Websites 8
and interaction and awareness of di-
basis. Since that time, blogging has
verse perspectives. Researchers con-
become a way for me to keep my re-
clude that student blogging encour-
search current; and, it enables me to
ages engagement in learning (Ellison &
become part of a cyber community
Wu, 2008; Ferdig & Trammell, 2004;
made up of other bloggers and read-
Wickerson & Chambers, 2006). When
students blog, they collect, publish and
After attending a presentation that fo-
then edit their work after receiving
cused on a group of ESL students who
feedback and having time for reflec-
used blogging in their English class, I
tion. Blogs allow students to easily
felt inspired to “try out” blogging with
navigate through their work since blog
my students. My class was made up of
posts are organized in a reverse
a group of Deaf college freshmen in a
chronological order. My students noted
Developmental English classroom. I
improvements in both the quantity and
found that blogging in an English class-
the quality of their work.
by Isadore Weiner
room can be an effective tool for both
academic and reflective writing that (Continued on page 4)
Letter from Sharon
Yes, I realize that you will technically be receiving this Fall issue in the Winter. I can give you a whole list of reasons why this
issue has been put aside numerous times; however, I think if I simply label myself as “educator”, you all can nod your heads
in agreement because you too understand the feeling of having too many responsibilities on your plate.
The main focus of this issue is about Blogging in the Deaf Education Classroom. As most of you know, I run the Deaf Charac-
ters in Adolescent Literature Blog (http://pajka.blogspot.com/). What you might not realize is that I have several other blogs.
All of them are educational in some way. Let me back up a bit. In April, I attended a workshop on blogging at the TESOL
Convention. The focus of the workshop was a group of ESL students who used blogging in their college– level English
course. I was already five weeks into my semester with a group of Deaf students who were taking a developmental English
course and decided to give blogging a shot. I honestly did not believe that it would work with my students. It wasn’t because
of the national statistics revealing that deaf seniors’ writing skills are below average compared to their hearing peers but
because my students were often too embarrassed to share their writing with each other during class. I figured that even if I
“forced” them to write in a blog, they would never really feel engaged. I was so wrong! They loved it and continually found
ways to amaze me. When I assign a project, like running a blog, I always participate along with my students. During the Fall
semester when I was asked to teach a “regular” English 102 group, I immediately knew that I would have them create blogs.
While the course and students were very different from the original developmental English class, the benefits were again
amazing. I’m still sorting through the assessment data from my recent blog project but each students’ final post on their
thoughts about blogging really is the key. Here is an excerpt from one of my students’ blog posts:
My first thoughts will obviously show that I didn't care about this. The message is
pretty much simple, I do this because I am forced to do this in order to get
credit. I hate to read and think...... support from my class and professor made me
feel that I am part of this work. In order to have class discussions and feedback,
everybody needs to do their blogging. Throughout the semester I felt important
to the group and I got all my questions answered when I wasn't sure about the
Sharon shouldn't stop this blogging method, its great for students to do this. I'm
sure y'all will agree. My overall opinion about this blogging thing is pretty sim-
ple. It's great and easy to use. Students will appreciate blogging more than writ-
ing and bringing papers to class. I would like to thank my professor who was a
great support throughout the semester. Thanks y'all for the great and fun class
discussions, it was the best in my life.
I love that his post is so honest. Of course it makes me laugh because he doesn’t like to “think”. While for confidentiality rea-
sons I can not share my student blog addresses, you’re welcome to check out my blog http://www.gsr102.blogspot.com.
At the time of this letter, I have 193 contemporary books listed including some upcoming publications on the quot;100+ Books
and Countingquot; list on my Deaf Characters in Adolescent Literature Blog (http://pajka.blogspot.com/). Feel free to contact me
Happy Reading and Happy Holidays,
Sharon Pajka-West, Ph.D.
What’s on my bookshelf
Hate that Cat by Sharon Creech
My Heart Glow: Alice
Cogswell, Thomas Gallau-
Reading level: Ages 9-12
det, and the Birth of Ameri-
Hardcover: 160 pages
can Sign Language by Emily
Vendor: Harper Collins
Arnold McCully (July 2008)
The sequel to Love That Dog, Hate
Picture book: 40 pages
That Cat: A Novel, picks up another
Publisher: Hyperion Books
year of Jack's life with teacher Miss
Stretchberry. Readers discover
Children’s author, illustrator
that main character Jack is a CODA;
and Caldecott Medal winner
his mother is Deaf and uses sign language to communicate!
Emily Arnold McCully invites us to take another look at this
While Mom isn’t a main character, she holds a pivotal role
touching story of how “one little girl inspired a whole new
throughout the book.
language- as well as the school where it could be taught”.
From A to Zulinski by Deb Piper This picture book shares their story and recounts how Gallau-
(May 2008) det's interest in teaching Alice carries him on a long journey
Reading level: Ages 9-12 that eventually leads to the nation's first school for the deaf. In
Paperback addition, a beautifully written author’s note offers more de-
Vendor: Royal Fireworks Publishing tails about American Sign Language and Alice’s life after at-
This is the third volume in series follow- tending school.
ing Jake's the Name, Sixth Grade's the
Signs of Jays (October 2008) by Linda Kurtz Kingsley
Game and followed by his exploits in
Reading Ages: Ages 4-9
Those Sevy Blues. Publisher: Jason & Nordic Publishers
Jake has reached high school gradua- When narrator Pete and his mother
tion. The book is a series of flash backs rescue two abandoned Scrub-Jays, his
about his time as a deaf student main- friend Mike, who is deaf, and other
streamed in a public school. deaf and hard of hearing students
help take on the responsibility of car-
Hands of My Father by Myron Uhl- ing for the baby birds. His mother
berg (February 2009) explains that just like the students in
Reading level: Crossover/ Adult her class who are preparing to main-
Hardcover: 256 pages stream, the jays are being prepared
Vendor: Bantam to mainstream back into the wild. This story is very much
Uhlberg’s account of growing up the about bridging the communication between deaf and hearing
son of deaf parents whom he adored. children and how two boys overcome their barriers of com-
From the beaches of Coney Island to munication to become friends.
Ebbets Field, where he watches his The title holds a double meaning. While this is a beginning
father’s hero Jackie Robinson play “sign” language book, Pete and Mike are waiting for a “sign”
ball, this is a memoir filled with sto- from the birds that they have raised and freed into the wild.
ries about growing up not just as the child of two deaf peo- The book includes twenty-four signs and beautiful watercolor
ple but as a book-loving, mischief-making, tree-climbing illustrations of children using American Sign Language and
kid during the remarkably eventful period that spanned the wearing hearing aids.
Depression, the War, and the early fifties.
(Blogging in the Deaf Education Classroom cont.)
mation. Many deaf and hard of hearing students are
(Continued from page 1)
considered visual learners and are “best able to under-
One of the benefits of blogs is that they are interactive. stand and remember content when they can see it
Ferdig & Trammell (2004) explain that students who graphically represented” (Kluth, 170).
blog become active participants in a community of Once I asked students to establish classroom blogs they
practice and are exposed to diverse perspectives. almost immediately demonstrated an increase in moti-
Buffington (2007) notes that blogs supported social in- vation and enjoyment in completing writing assign-
teraction when she engaged in blogging with her stu- ments. While they were given specific assignments,
dents. She explains that this interaction outside of the they showed creativity by selecting topics that were of
classroom helped maintain the students’ momentum in interest to them. For example, I asked students to read
their course work, and the accessibility of blogs en- an article from any on-line newspaper and answer:
abled her students to interact even when they lived a Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How, and then
significant distance from campus. write a one-paragraph summary of the article that in-
Since blogs include both written and graphic compo- cluded their opinion. The students were required to cite
nents where text along with visuals come together to their articles by using the hyperlink function. This en-
form meaning, blogging may benefit deaf students. abled readers to simply click on the text and go to the
Kluth (2008) reports that research on visual supports, original source. While I encouraged my students to se-
including graphic organizers, handouts, manipulatives, lect articles that interested them, many selected news
and other visual representations of information are im- articles that were both poignant and serious in nature.
perative for deaf and hard of hearing students when Students motivated one another through their posts. For
they are learning to read and understand content infor- one optional assignment, I asked students to watch the
premiere of Hallmark’s Sweet Nothing in My Ear and
write a review of the movie. Some of the posts were so
enticing that those students who failed to watch the
Visual supports, including graphic movie posted comments of regret.
Aside from extrinsic motivation, the students started to
organizers, handouts, manipulatives, and
establish new relationships with one another based on
other visual representations of information their blogs. They became critical readers reading both
the text and the visual images that accompanied the
are imperative for deaf and hard of hearing
articles. In the comments section, I noticed that students
students when they are learning to read began explaining to their peers how certain images
had the power to elicit particular emotions and that
and understand content information (Kluth
sometimes these pictures were used as a parody. Stu-
2008) dents not only made connections with peers but they
also were more interested in discussing their writing.
(Continued on page 5)
(Blogging in the Deaf Education Classroom cont.)
(Continued from page 4)
This format of writing fosters authentic
One student began coming more regularly to my office opportunities to build a community of trust
during office hours and frequently made appointments
that enables students to “own” their writing.
to discuss her blog-writing. Prior to the blogging pro-
ject, the student had only come to office hours when the
appointments were mandatory.
attempting new language and for correcting any mis-
The students also started to show ownership of their
use. Overall, the students authentically practiced Eng-
writing and reported feeling like writers. Because they
lish outside of the classroom.
understood who they were writing for and had a clear
audience and purpose for their posts, their writing be- This format of writing fosters authentic opportunities to
came much more clear. They even differentiated the build a community of trust that enables students to
necessity for more formal writing in their posts from “own” their writing. Blogging empowers students as
casual writing including slang and computer acronyms writers enabling them to become aware of their own
in the comments section. The students almost unani- voice, a sense of audience and purpose, a community of
mously differentiated their writing styles between more writers, and multiple perspectives and feedback
academic writing in the posts to more casual tones us- through blog comments.
ing computer jargon such as “LOL” and “OMG” in the Allen, T. (1986). Patterns of academic achievement among hearing impaired students: 1974
comments sections. I noticed that they were more will- and 1983. In A. Schildroth & M. Karchmer (Eds.) Deaf Children in America (161-
206). San Diego, CA: Little Brown.
ing and perhaps able to attempt spoken language ver-
Bertein, M. (2004). Do Weblogs Improve Writing? MarkBertein.org. Retrieved on April
nacular. 04, 2008 from http://www.markbernstein.org/Jan0401/
Their writing in Blogger allowed me to assess whether
Blood, R. (2000). Weblogs: A History and Perspective, Rebecca's Pocket. Retrieved on
or not they could apply what they learned in class into September 28, 2008 from http://www.rebeccablood.net/essays/weblog_history.html.
their everyday writing. In particular, students still Helmond, A. (2008). How Many Blogs Are There? Is Someone Still Counting? Blog
Herald. Retrieved June 2, 2008, from http://www.blogherald.com/2008/02/11/how-
struggled with differentiating between gerund and in-
finitive use. One student wrote, “You intend to going to Holt, J.A., Traxier, C.B., and Allen, T.E. (1997). Interpreting the Scores: A User's Guide to
basketball this weekend.” This was an opportunity for the 9th Edition Stanford Achievement Test for Educators of Deaf and Hard-of-
Hearing Students. Gallaudet Research Institute Technical Report 97-1. Washington,
me to talk to the student one-on-one and remind her of
D.C.: Gallaudet University.
the rules. Similarly, another student misused the term Mitchell, R. E.& Karchmer, M. A.(2006). Demographics of Deaf Education: More Stu-
bookworm and called one of her peer’s a “wormbook”. dents in More Places. American Annals of the Deaf , 151(2), 95-104.
This was another moment to applaud the student for Kluth, Paula (2008). “It was Always the Pictures…”: Creating Visual Literacy Supports
for Students with Disabilities. In N.Frey and D. Fisher Teaching Visual Literacy:
Using Comic Books, Graphic Novels, Anime, Cartoons and More to Develop Com-
prehension and Thinking Skills (169-188). Thousand Oaks, CA, Corwin Publishing.
Their blogs allowed me to assess whether
Lenhart, A. & Fox. S. (2006). Bloggers: A Portrait of the Internets new storytellers. Wash-
ington, DC: Pew Internet & American Life Project. Retrieved June 2, 2008, from
or not they could apply what they learned http://www.pewinternet.org/pdfs/PIP%20Bloggers%20Report%20July%2019%2020
in class into their everyday writing. Schirmer, B.R. & McGough, S.M. (2005). Teaching reading to children who are deaf: do
the conclusions of the national reading panel apply? Review of Educational Re-
search; 75(1), 83-117.
Books I’m looking forward to reading….
My friends know that I have a hard you more, I CAN direct you to the (April 15, 2009)
time keeping secrets; however, if I comments section on my blog-> Product Description
spill the beans from every author http://pajka.blogspot.com/2008/10/
This collection features the best arti-
who sends me Advanced Reading
cles and poems by Deaf activist and
where you can find
Copies or manuscripts, I’ll never
1968 California Teacher of the Year on
correspondence between one of
receive any tips in the future. So subjects ranging from communication
the comic book artists and me!
for now, I’m just going to give you and language to humorous insights on
some teasers. For now, I’m looking forward to his own activities.
Recently, I reviewed a manuscript Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony
with a main character who is an quot;Vignettes of the Deaf Charac- John
ASL-using Deaf teen. This charac- terquot;: And Other Plays by Willy A deaf seventeen-year-old manages
ter is awesome and I can’t wait for Conley her high school rock band to both
this book to be published. The Gallaudet University Press; 1st Edition humorous and devastating effect, will
(May 15, 2009)
storyline kept me interested be published by Dial (2010)
throughout and the author’s Deaf Product Description
Characters are even more inter-
Deaf master playwright Willy Conley
“The narrator's motivation for
features deaf, hard of hearing, and
hearing characters created from the
And, this week, I was contacted by managing her high school rock band
a Reading Recovery Program
is that she plans to attend Gallaudet
editor who will be including a I Fill This Small Space: The Writ-
Deaf Character as the main char- and her parents have just blown her
ings of a Deaf Activist (Deaf
acter in a whole series of educa- Lives Series) by Lawrence New- entire college fund. I guess this
tional comics! I can’t wait to share man
means you'd be her professor!”
this will you. Although I can’t tell Gallaudet University Press; 1st Edition
-email correspondence with Antony John
Thanks for Giving me a Head’s Up!
I scour through the selves contact me to draw my A Drowned Maiden's Hair: A
search engines, the attention to such books.
Melodrama by Laura Amy
Thanks to librarian Ann G. from
notices, the major
New York for sharing this book Reading level: Young Adult
book sellers’ web-
with me. Ann explains that while Paperback: 400 pages
sites and inevitably,
the Deaf Character isn't the main Publisher: Candlewick (2006)
I miss books with
character, she plays a pivotal
The Deaf Character, Muffet, is
role in the story. I just started a secondary character who
reading this one. communicates with quot;signsquot;.
and authors them-
Awards and Honors
will be officially announced in May School for the Deaf in the early 1900s,
2010. similar to the author's late mother,
Elizabeth Rowe. The plot is amazing!
The Historic Sites Association partners
with the Writer's Alliance of New- You can also check out my review of
foundland and Labrador to present a The Silent Time in the Fall 2008 issue
of the Newfoundland and Labrador
Heritage and History Book Award
for a work of fiction, non-fiction, po- Studies Journal!
etry, or young adult/children's litera-
ture that exemplifies excellence in the
interpretation of the history and heri-
tage of Newfoundland and Labrador.
A shortlist is selected and the winner
is announced in December of that
year. Let's cross our fingers because
Congratulations to Myron Uhlberg!
The Silent Time by Paul Rowe has
His picture book Dad, Jackie, and Me
made the short list!!! I read this book
has been selected to be on the Vir-
last December and it became one of
ginia Young Readers’ Choice list for
my favorite reads of the year.... and is
2009-2010. This children’s choice
still one of my favorites. The deaf
award is sponsored by the Virginia
character, Dulcie attends the Halifax
State Reading Association. Winners
Pajka-West, Sharon. “Paul Rowe. The
Silent Time” Rev. of The Silent Time.
How to Start Blogging Newfoundland and Labrador Studies
Journal 23.2 (Fall 2008): 267-269.
While the idea my seem daunting, blogging isn’t that difficult. First and foremost, I
recommend that YOU start a blog before encouraging your students to do so. Here is
how to start blogging in 5 easy steps:
1. Find a blogging platform. I use Blogger (www.blogger.com) because I’m most
familiar with it; I find it easy to use; and, it is FREE!
2. Find your niche. What is your purpose for blogging and what will you choose to
post? Remember that you can’t write for everyone. So, pick your audience. I try
not to stray away from my Deaf Characters topic on http://pajka.blogspot.com/
3. Pick a strong http address. If I had to do it all over again, I would never select
pajka.blogspot.com! It tells you nothing about my topic and now it is simply too
late to change (sigh!).
4. Once you select your platform, follow the easy steps to set up your layout.
Remember, you can always make changes!
Preferred Blogging Platforms by %
5. Finally, don’t freak out about your first post. While it is important to proofread (I
graph by Michael Pick, 2007
know my friends are laughing that I wrote that because I don’t proofread very
often), you can always go back and edit your work.
Favorite Fall Moment:
Meeting Author Sharon Creech
Read the YADC blog!
Visit her website at:
With the popularity of the internet, authors realize that they need to be accessible to their fans via the web. Below
you might be interested in visiting some of the websites of authors who include Deaf Characters in their novels.
Jacqueline Woodson, Feathers Jodi Cutler Del Dottore, Rally Caps
Doug Cooney, Leading Ladies Sarah Miller, Miss Spitfire
Delia Ray, Signing Hands Penny Warner, Connor Westphal Mysteries
Lauraine Snelling, A Touch of Grace Ginny Rorby, Hurt Go Happy
Christine Harris, Mask of the Jackal Jean Ferris, Of Sound Mind
Rachel Stolzman, The Sign for Drowning David Mack, Marvel Comics’ Daredevil
Meg Burden, Northlander Sherryl Jordan, The Raging Quiet
Teri Brown, Read My Lips
http://www.teribrownwrites.com/ Donna Jo Napoli, http://www.donnajonapoli.com/
Marlee Matlin, Deaf Child Crossing Janice Graham, The Tailor’s Daughter
Josh Swiller, The Unheard Joyce Dunbar, Moonbird